Current events: Role models in math and science edition

Young grad student and self-proclaimed ordinary person (i.e. not a genius or math prodigy) solves the Conway knot problem in one week. What I especially liked about this write-up was how it focused on countering stereotypes about successful mathematicians.

When universities organize math conferences, she says, they should avoid inviting speakers who “give talks where they go really fast and they try to show you how smart they are and how hard their research is. That’s not good for anyone, but it’s especially not good for young people or people who are feeling maybe like they don’t belong here.” What those people in the audience don’t know, she says, is that nobody else really understands it either.

“You don’t have to be really ‘smart’ — whatever that means — to be a successful mathematician,” Piccirillo says. “There’s this idea that mathematicians are geniuses. A lot of them seem to be child prodigies that do these Olympiads. In fact, you don’t have to come from that background at all to be very good at math and most mathematicians, including many of the really great ones, don’t come from that sort of background.”

And as Piccirillo herself proves, some of them even go on to produce work that alters the course of mathematics.


Neat! I can’t read the article because I’m not a member, but I was able to look her up elsewhere. But I like what she says here. I wonder about that as I teach history to my kids – there is the risk of holding up so many prodigious, famous, “gifted” people and missing the fact that most are ordinary and can still do wonderful things.

Weird. I’m not a member either, but it let me. Maybe you live too close to its circulation area. :wink:

1 Like

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

This is a place for gracious dialogue about science and faith. Please read our FAQ/Guidelines before posting.